World Octopus Day 2021

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A Look at Some Things You May or May Not Know About Octopuses

Today, we are celebrating World Octopus Day 2021. Yes, those eight-tentacled, ink-spraying invertebrates have their own special day of the 8th of October.

The Octopus is an amazing creature. They have the ability to regrow tentacles should they lose one to an attacker, and they can use their suckers to open clamshells and move rocks.

In recognition, we have some interesting facts about these loveable, yet scary-looking sea-dwellers.

Octopi or Octopuses?

We’ve all indulged in saying the word Octopi when referring to the plural of Octopus, but Lexico have confirmed that the true word for multiple Octopus is Octopuses. So, why have we been saying it wrong for years?

Using the suffix ‘i’ to refer to a plural noun is only applied to Latin words. The word Octopus is Greek, therefore, substituting the ‘us’ for an ‘i’ is not the done thing!

Hands on Hearts

Step aside Doctor Who with your 2 hearts. Octopuses trump you with 3. 2 of their heart’s only function is to move blood beyond the animal’s gills. The third keeps circulation flowing for the organs.

Copper Load of their Blood

Octopuses have blue blood. It contains a protein called haemocyanin, which carries oxygen around the octopus’s body. Haemocyanin contains copper, rather than the iron in human blood, which turns the blood blue. Because the protein is copper-based, it is a much more efficient way of transporting oxygen molecules in cold and low-oxygen conditions. Perfect for spending a lifetime at the bottom of the ocean.

Brainiacs, or is that Brainy Arms?

Octopuses not only have a central brain, but each of their arms contains a ‘mini-brain.’ This allows each arm to act independently, meaning they can sense touch, taste etc without being told to do so by the main brain. However, the central brain can take control if necessary.

Short-lived Parenting

Male octopuses do not hang around after mating with the female, but it’s not their fault. Sadly, after the mating process has ended, the males drift away and die soon after. The female can then lay up to 400,000 eggs, but she stops eating in order to look after them. When the eggs hatch, her body undergoes a cellular demise, and she also dies.

We have an Inkling they can Defend Themselves

Octopuses produce ink, but they use this to fight predators. Inside the ink is a compound called tyrosinase which can cause a blinding irritation. If an octopus feels threatened by a predator, they spray the ink and make their getaway while the enemy is struggling with its eyes. But they must be careful. The spray can be so strong, that even the octopus can die if it doesn’t escape its own ink cloud in time. 

Small but Deadly

There are around 300 different species in every ocean. One such species, the blue-ringed octopus is the deadliest. Its venom is 1,000 times more powerful than cyanide and has enough in reserve to kill 26 humans within minutes. In humans, a bite from one of these guys can cause muscle numbness, nausea, vision loss or blindness, loss of senses and loss of motor skills. Eventually, muscle paralysis will set in. This includes the muscles needed for humans to breathe, which ultimately leads to respiratory arrest.

The blue-ringed Octopus featured in the 1983 James Bond film Octopussy. When its aquarium is smashed, it attacks and poisons a thug sent to kill Bond.

But fear not, they are not common on British shores and are native to the Pacific Ocean. For more information on this species, click here.

And finally…

Octopuses are known to be smart, but can they really predict the future? In 2010, an Octopus called Paul made 14 predictions at the South Africa Football World Cup. Paul made 12 correct predictions, including the eventual winner, Spain.

Paul sadly died in October 2010, possibly from laughter after he was asked if England will win the World Cup again. To our knowledge, no other mystic Octopus has taken his place.

If you want to know more about these amazing creatures, click here to visit the Natural History Museum website.

Happy World Octopus Day 2021.

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